18-year-old celebrates surprise high school graduation in hospital after heart transplant 

Dollita Okine June 04, 2024
When he was six years old, he was placed in foster care and eventually found a loving family and parents. Photo Credit: CBS News

Since birth, Joseph Bommarito Autman has battled congestive heart failure. Before turning 4, Autman had to undergo four heart surgeries due to his condition, which causes the heart to pump blood less efficiently than it should and causes blood to return to the heart more quickly than it can be discharged.

When he was six years old, he was placed in foster care and eventually found a loving family and parents. Sjana Autman, his foster mother, described how his ailment left him with half a heart and posed other challenges for the teenager, including learning and writing problems.

The proud mother told CBS News, “He never wavered in trying. He had to try harder than the other children.”

Surrounded by his family, friends, and the valiant staff from the hospital who were all in masks, he recently had an unconventional graduation ceremony at the hospital after missing his, with his teacher presenting him with his diploma.

The 18-year-old expressed, “I wasn’t even expecting it. They woke me up and said, ‘Put your cap and gown on.’”

Autman was not only commemorating his time in high school but also his recent heart transplant, which he received fortunately after only a few months rather than years of waiting. According to his pediatric cardiologist, Dr. Natalie Shwaish, a kind donor provided the heart.

Autman intends to attend college, but he must first spend a few weeks in the hospital before returning home.

He said, “I could not have done this by myself. I don’t think anyone could have done this. It’s a culmination of many people’s efforts … This has given me a second wind, not as much of a second chance, but a second wind. Now, I get to have a new drive and new passion again.”

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: June 4, 2024


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